It is under her leadership that the Congress gave its worst performance in the Parliamentary polls of 2014.
In another two weeks, Sonia Gandhi shall complete 17 years as the president of the Indian National Congress, a feat unmatched in the annals of the grand old party, though she is certainly not the most distinguished person to hold this august office previously occupied by the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, Madan Mohan Malviya, Indira Gandhi, Jagjivan Ram and Rajiv Gandhi. However, to her credit, she took over when the party was going downwards and turned it around by getting it in power in at least 15 states and at the Centre.
But the supreme irony is that it is under her leadership that the Congress has given its worst performance in the Parliamentary polls, with a tally of merely 44 seats in the Lok Sabha. Therefore, the moment is nearing when she should give up the position and allow Generation Next to take over the reins of power of the Congress. True, it is difficult to relinquish the position, but this seems to be the only course left for the party to move forward.
There is already speculation that Rahul Gandhi, her second in command and also her son, is expected to be elevated to the position of president when the plenary session of the Congress takes place in Bangalore in April. He has been the butt of many jokes for his apparent reluctance to accept responsibility and earlier in the week surprised everyone by declaring that he was taking time off from active politics to introspect on why the Congress was doing so badly in recent years. His decision has become a subject matter of TV debates, where analysts have accused him of dereliction of duty as an MP and have also blamed him for missing an opportunity to get back at the government during the budget session when it was looking very vulnerable.
All this may be true, but it has to be understood that Rahul’s immediate priority maybe to instil new confidence in the rank and file of his party, rather than locking horns with the ruling party, which is comfortably placed in the Lok Sabha number-wise. Looking at his track record objectively, he has always tried to move ahead with the best of intentions.
Some of his setbacks have been on account of bad planning and the inability of his advisers to take into account ground realities. But there are also numerous instances when he has been done in by the coterie close to his mother. This coterie has always felt threatened by his emergence, because it has got so used to sharing the spoils of being in office and is determined not to allow new power centres to be created within the party. The creation of new power centres is inevitable if Rahul becomes the president, so every effort is being made to discourage him from taking over.
Sonia Gandhi too wants Rahul to succeed her, but being a status quoist, does not know how to keep off her close aides from harming her son’s prospects. The greatest mistake she has made is that she has continued with the same set of advisers ever since she took over as party president, instead of shuffling her pack every three to four years. This has led to the alienation of the cadres. The workers have never objected to her being at the helm of affairs, but have been greatly disillusioned by the kind of politics practised by her coterie, which denied accessibility to the rank and file and pursued policies which were in variance with the Congress ideology and its principles.
The greatest mistake she has made is that she has continued with the same set of advisers ever since she took over as party president, instead of shuffling her pack every three to four years. This has led to the alienation of the cadres. The workers have been greatly disillusioned by the kind of politics practised by her coterie, which pursued policies that were in variance with the Congress ideol
Rahul essentially represents change. A change from the way the party has been running all these years. He wants internal elections, which makes many uncomfortable. He wants to revive the practice of holding polls for the Congress Working Committee (CWC), a crucial decision making body, so that new ideas can come in from newly elected persons.
The present body is packed with mostly sycophants, who adhere to the political line given by the Sonia coterie, fearing that if they did not, their own position would be in danger. Rahul wants to revive the Congress Parliamentary Board, the highest body, which has been defunct for the last two decades or more.
He wants transparency in the selection of party nominees, instead of some people making money while finalising tickets of Parliament or Assembly aspirants. He is in favour of primaries for selection of candidates. His ideas do not suit many of the seniors, who have developed vested interests. The only way they can go is if Sonia Gandhi steps down. The baggage of truncated and outdated leaders would go along with her. This would be Rahul’s biggest contribution to the Congress.
The party needs only one power centre, and not two. Those close to Sonia Gandhi represent the Syndicate. Those close to Rahul would emerge as the Young Turks. The Syndicate has to go. Between us.